News From Ramaz

Making History in Albany
Posted 03/20/2019 11:02AM

Sophomores Arielle B., Hannah D., Jacob D., David G., William K., Eitan L., Daniella N., Jonathan S., and Jacob S., took on the challenge to take part in an historical happening. They boarded our coach bus for Albany promptly at 6:30am, and didn't return to NYC until 8pm! They chose to join with 650 Yeshiva Day School students in the Teach NYS Mission to Albany to advocate for increased funding for nonpublic schools in the upcoming 2019 New York State budget, specifically targeting STEM programming, and security funding.

It was an amazing event, with speeches from Senator Todd Kaminsky, Letitia "Tish" A. James, the newly elected Attorney General of New York, and other elected officials. Most importantly, the students were presented with opportunities to meet with legislators and were engaged in the process of advocacy. Our group had private meetings with Assemblyman Dan Quart and Liz Krueger's Chief of Staff, Mr. Brad Usher.

The best surprise of all happened when we met with alumnus Michael Snow '09, Director of Jewish Affairs for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. We sat right down on the marbled floor of the Capitol, and listened in awe as Michael explained his role as the Governor's Jewish Liaison, and how he secured this prestigious role. We laughed as he shared his high school foibles, and were impressed by his advice, Identify your passion, pursue it, and you will be successful and happy too!

Participating students were required to submit an essay that would explain why they want to participate in this mission to the Capitol, and what they hope to learn. The responses were remarkable. Below are excerpts from essays submitted, and are representative of the enthusiasm and passion expressed by everyone.

There is an inequality in the New York State budget for private schools and petitioning for more funds can help fix this inequality. I would love to represent my reasons for advocating for more funding, particularly for programs such as STEM and school security. With the increase of anti-Semitism around the New York area, I feel that our communities' voices of concern should be heard. I was particularly inspired when I saw the success of student voices following the tragic shooting in Florida.

I hope to learn about our State's governing system and see democracy in action! I am eager to meet with leaders who recognize the importance of engaging with the Jewish community. I look forward to seeing how an organization at a grassroots level can make a difference to so many, and am excited to share this opportunity with my fellow students, one I will cherish as a proud citizen, representing my school, Ramaz.

At Ramaz, we have an incredible group of security guards that keep us safe all day. Walking through school, every student feels safe and protected. I understand that security guards are a large expense for the school, and if not funded by the state, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of Ramaz parents, which greatly increases tuition. And for families with multiple children, like my own, it imposes an undue hardship. Additionally, in light of recent events in schools, synagogues, and mosques security is becoming increasingly important. It is sad to think about the possibility of something horrible happening at school because of the lack of security. Seeing the high-quality security team at Ramaz makes students feel safe in a scary world.

In recent years, STEM has become more and more important in education in schools. In order to get the best qualified teachers, schools must be able to provide competitive salaries to attract these teachers. If the state were to assist with STEM teachers' salaries, Ramaz would be able to provide the best STEM education possible to all of its students. On this mission, I hope that our group is successful in lobbying for more funds from the state to defray the cost of security guards and STEM teachers that would otherwise need to come from tuition.

We believe that somewhere in their personal memory boxes the students will make note that they attended this student advocacy mission in Albany. And someday, in the not too distant future, they will find this memory will serve them well when they will choose to be activists, and spokespersons for human rights.

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